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Shipwrecks and Sharks in North Carolina

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Once I learned that 30 miles off the coast of Morehead City, NC there lies a graveyard of shipwrecks inhabited by Sandtiger Sharks, I knew I had to go. Here the Gulf Stream sweeps warm waters up from the Caribean, bringing with it good visibility and a plentiful supply of food to support a large population of sharks. The sharks congregate on ships, many of whom were placed here by a different type of underwater predator. In the last years of WWII, German U-Boats prowled the deep up and down the East Coast of the United States looking for easy prey in merchant vessels shipping war supplies in the Atlantic.

CARIBSEA

A 8ft Sand Tiger I met above the Caribsea wreck.

A 8ft Sand Tiger I met above the Caribsea wreck

One of the wrecks I dove was named the Caribsea. It was sunk in the middle of the night by 2 torpedoes fired from the U-Boat U-158. It is reported that the ship sank quickly and only 7 members of the 28 member crew survived the attack. The ship lies in 70-90 ft of water is known for its abundance of marine life and the presence of many Sand Tiger Sharks.

When I reached the wreck, I had my first encounter with Sand Tigers. I have seen a few sharks before, but they were all nurse sharks and one small reef shark which are smaller and not as imposing as a full grown Sand Tiger. Fortunately, the Sand Tigers look menacing, but actually have a very mellow personality. I had to keep repeating this to myself as I was passed on both sides by Sand Tigers as big as me. It is definitely an interesting experience to realize you are no longer the top of the food chain. On this dive, I saw over a dozen individual sharks. They would cruise by with their snaggly teeth overcrowding and hanging out of their mouths. They didn’t seem to be bothered by the divers and would just glide past as their dull black eyes kept a watch on these noisy bubble making primates flopping around beside them.

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I’m sure the wreck is interesting, too, but my eyes were fixed on the predators encircling me. I don’t really have much of a recollection of this wreck as it was my first time in water with large sharks!

More info on the Caribsea wreck from NC-Wreckdiving.com

AEOLUS

Life inside the Aeolus

Life inside the Aeolus

My next dive trip was a bit farther out to sea. The hope was to actually dive on one of the U-boats that prowled these waters. A depth charge sunk the U-352 in this area in 1942. It lies a bit farther out than other wrecks and can have some very strong currents on it. We were trying to dive the U-boat, but Neptune didn’t want to cooperate and we had to divert to a different wreck in the area.

This next wreck dive was on the Aeolus. The Aeolus did not meet a tragic end as was the case for many other wrecks in the area. The Aeolus was purposely sunk as an artificial reef in 1988. Originally, the Aeolus was a Cable Repair Ship and Attack Cargo Ship. The ship is 426 ft long and is resting upright on the bottom in 110 ft of water. The ship is alive with fish and corals. The Sand Tigers were present on this wreck as well. These sharks were smaller than the Caribsea, but were still big enough to demand respect. I was following one 6 ft Sand Tiger down a side corridor of the ship when suddenly it turned around, faced me, then finally swam off beside me. I decided I would keep a little more distance from the sharks in the future.

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More info on the Aeolus wreck from NC-Wreckdiving.com

If you choose to visit Morehead City to check out some of the awesome wrecks in the area, be sure to bring your Dramamine. The typical boat ride is 30 miles and takes about 3 hours in the open sea. The benefit of this long ride is much clearer water and some of the best wreck diving in the country.

I used a dive operator called Olympus Dive Center. They are one of the best in the area. They operate 3 boats. Two of the boats are nice, large ocean-going boats that are pretty comfortable for the long ride out. The third is a smaller boat used for inshore diving.

Olympus Dive Center
713 Shepard Street
Morehead City, NC 28557
252-726-9432
info@olympusdiving.com

Hanging out with Barracuda during the safety stop.

Hanging out with Barracuda during the safety stop

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